war may be inevitable – at least, that's what we're
supposed to believe – the War Party's propaganda campaign
is stupefyingly unconvincing. What was billed as a "Support
the Troops" rally at the Alamo was held the other
day, where "about 1,000" participants waved
signs proclaiming "God
Supports President Bush." This echoes the President's
own remarks, made the same day, in which he declared
it was the
will of "the Almighty" to "liberate
the oppressed people of Iraq." Having abandoned
the Constitution, and the foreign policy advice of the
Founding Fathers, the President and his supporters have
reverted back to an earlier doctrine: the
divine right of kings.
Indianpolis, Indiana, where a similar group rallied
in support of mass murder in Iraq, was the scene of
breathtakingly ugly – and telling – incident, when
confronted counter-demonstrators from Veterans for Peace:
got contentious at the end of the less-than-hourlong
demonstration when some at the rally confronted a group
calling itself Vietnam
Veterans for Peace. 'Go home and eat your wine and
cheese, you sissies,' William G. Rice, 40, yelled at
the group of about 20 people as they walked away. 'Cowards.'
Rice, a laborer, said that although he had no military
experience, he thought he understood the political situation
better than the veterans. 'I seem to have a better understanding
of the price of freedom than they do,' he said."
is the moral blindness
inspired by our righteous President – and his neoconservative
amen corner, who lecture us on the glories of bringing
"freedom" and "democracy" to the
Middle East – that the men who fought in the muck and
mire of Southeast Asia are now "sissies,"
while this good-for-nothing "laborer" who
never fought a day in his life has "a better understanding
of freedom than they do."
Anthony Zinni, retired Marine
P. Hoar, and the most decorated
soldier of the Vietnam war era, Colonel
David Hackworth – these are
all "cowards," because they challenge the
rush to war, while the manly Rice and his fellow chickenhawks
are not only morally superior, but gifted with a special
insight that entitles them to lead.
"First of all, you know, size of protests – it's
like deciding, 'Well, I'm going to decide policy based
upon a focus group,'" said
Emperor, when asked about the
effect of the recent anti-war rallies on U.S. policy.
"The role of a leader is to decide policy based
upon, in this case, the security of the people,"
he said, looking sternly presidential.
This administration doesn't
make a move without consulting focus groups. Karl
Rove watches the polls, well, like a hawk, and the
news is not good for the War Party, even
in pro-military, staunchly conservative Alabama.
Suddenly, the warmongers themselves are under attack
from a growing anti-war movement – that's us,
folks! – and an
Associated Press report on the poll numbers attributes
the shift in opinion to domestic anti-war sentiment
as well as last
week's dust-up with Turkey over the terms of their
coalition of the bribed:
"These events took a toll on domestic support
for military action, according to polls taken last week
by the Gallup Organization and the Pew Research Center.
Both found that while majorities say they support the
basic proposition of disarming Hussein by force, that
support is strongly conditional on obtaining UN approval
for any war."
a large majority of the American people leery of war
without UN approval, or some kind of international backing,
Rove must be having conniptions. This is the reason
for the full-scale diplomatic offensive of the past
few weeks, meant to bludgeon the French, the Germans,
the Russians and the Chinese into line – not because
the administration cares one whit about international
public opinion, but to buttress Bush's own position
at home. Pollsters attribute American ambivalence over
this war to fears of the aftermath, in which the U.S.
will be left alone to bear the postwar burden of policing
and reconstruction. And in deep South states like Alabama,
for instance, there is the knowledge that a great deal
of the burden will fall directly on their shoulders,
as the Mobile
"Just as in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, however,
it's likely that Alabama people will shoulder a disproportionate
role in any new conflict. Although the ranks of the
Alabama National Guard have shrunk in the last decade,
its 15,000 members still make it among the largest state
reserve forces in the country. Already, about 4,100
of those troops are on active duty, serving primarily
in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and stateside on homeland
defense duties. In comparison with other states, 'we
would be right at the top' in the percentage of mobilized
personnel, said Norm Arnold, a Guard spokesman in Montgomery."
So much for the GOP's "southern strategy."
If the Trent Lott affair didn't end it, then this surely
a veritable sword
of Damocles, the threat of a French veto hangs over
the War Party's head and calls into serious question
the scheduling of this supposedly inevitable war. In
order to mobilize domestic support, the President and
his war-mad cronies, unilateralists all, have become
multilateralists by necessity. But Chirac has made such
an issue of this – to
the cheers of his countrymen – that it would be
difficult for him to explain why he didn't utter the
one word that could possibly slow, if not stop, the
American war machine: "Veto!"
I have pointed out before, once the U.S. made the decision
to go to the UN for a resolution, they stepped in it
without much thought of extrication. That was the first
real quagmire of this war. A major rationale for going
to the UN was the argument made not only by Colin Powell
but also by the British, who had their own internal
political troubles to consider. Now Blair has demanded
and gotten a campaign for a second resolution,
and if that fails, then all bets are off.
Both the President and his British poodle have talked
in apocalyptic terms about how the day of reckoning
with Iraq is upon us, but judgement day may dawn for
Tony Blair in the House of Commons when war breaks out.
His own party – and his own voters – are in open revolt
against this rotten war. Will the anti-war segment of
Britain's Labor Party have the courage to bring down
their "own" government?
could just happen, and in that case we wouldn't even
have the British to use as a fig-leaf for our isolation.
Australia, too, is iffy, with Prime Minister John Howard's
pro-invasion position under assault from anti-war members
of Parliament, and large
numbers opposed to Australian participation without
UN approval. With the "coalition
of the willing" limited to Israel,
and Nauru, will the Bushies embark on a high-risk
long-term military campaign with the majority of Americans
either opposed or skeptical?
a number of practical and purely military reasons, any
invasion plan set in motion after the Ides
of March is liable to cost us, in casualties and
time, neither of which the administration can afford
to expend. The little Napoleons of the neoconservative
set are counting on a short war, a "cakewalk,"
chickenhawks describe the quick victory scenario.
We are bound to experience, in the next few weeks, a
veritable maelstrom of war propaganda, a cacophony of
war cries and lies so extravagant as to rival any similar
great danger of this propaganda technique, with its
crudeness and apparent disregard for objective standards
of truth, is that it is bound to provoke widespread
incredulity. In dialectical revenge against the swaggering
excesses of the War Party, the backlash, or "blowback,"
is already gathering, and, while anti-war protestors
marched in their millions in Rome, Paris, Barcelona,
and London, the strongest reaction may eventually flare
up on American shores.
political and cultural turmoil to the toll taken by
this war in terms of troops and treasure. The anti-war
movement is, in large part, a youth movement. Brought
up to believe that America is a democratic republic,
today's young Americans see their country becoming an
empire abroad and a police state at home. As the land
of the free and the home of the brave becomes the land
of the Patriot
Act and the home of the too-scared-to-protest, the
young are standing up to be counted. There is a premonition
of insurrection in the air, not only political but also
cultural, that could make the 1960s – with all its excesses
– seem like a Sunday school picnic.
last column, I pointed out the irony that the chief
focus of European opposition to the war is coming from
the center-right government of French Prime Minister
Jacques Chirac, while the Euro-Left is siding with Bush:
Blair plus the "ex"-Communist ruling parties
of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, all of which
are represented in the Socialist
International. Several readers wrote to me pointing
out that this is not so: Chirac's is alone among center-right
governments in Europe to oppose the war. In Italy, Spain,
and Portugal, center-right governments have all come
out in favor, while the Social Democratic Gerhard Schroeder
has come out against. I have two points to make in reply:
The first is that talk is cheap. Silvio
Berlusconi and Jose
Maria Aznar can make friendly noises and keep their
own restive voters from deserting them in droves because
neither Italy nor Spain has a permanent seat on the
UN Security Council, and thus what they say or do not
say is largely irrelevant. This is fortunate for them,
politically, because the second point is that neither
Berlusconi nor Aznar represent the true sentiments of
their own people, who overwhelmingly oppose this war.
Among the center-right governments of
Europe, the only one whose opinion on the war question
matters is located in Paris. Furthermore, Chirac,
far more than the hapless Schroeder, has taken the lead
on this issue, presenting the French plan for extended
and enhanced inspections as the alternative to America's
war plans. It wasn't Schroeder who rebuked the "Vilnius
Group" for their declaration of fealty to their
masters in Washington, nor would the Germans even think
of asserting themselves so boldly. Thrust into the limelight
by circumstance and his own opportunistic instincts,
Chirac may yet transcend his own mediocrity and come
to symbolize the Gaullist revival.
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